Juliet Remi ’20, has been learning sign language since her sophomore year of high school. Now, as an executive board member of the Cornell University Deaf Awareness Project, she has helped spearhead the campaign for the university to offer an American Sign Language course as a foreign language option.
Remi believes that creating an official American Sign Language course is key to fulfilling Cornell’s promise of “Any Person, Any Study.”
“It’s hard to build community when you can’t communicate with that many people here,” she explained. “We think establishing American Sign Language classes would help attract a more diverse student body.”
After years of lobbying, the deaf awareness project has achieved its goal. This month, it was announced that the College of Arts and Sciences will offer sign language courses this fall.
Integral to the project’s mission is raising awareness of challenges facing deaf and hard-of-hearing students, including accessibility issues. Remi and her colleagues have held movie screenings and facilitated discussions across campus in order to make these issues more visible.
In addition to their advocacy work, the group meets regularly to do self-directed learning. The club hosts “Sign Choir,” in which participants learn the nuances of the language by translating English lyrics into American Sign Language.
Translating songs is not as straightforward as one would think, said Remi, because often there is no direct word-for-word equivalent. Instead, sign language translators must think creatively about how best to represent the lyrics, a process known as “glossing”.
Remi says that she chose to come to ILR partially because it allowed her to explore different areas of interest, including deaf and hard-of-hearing awareness.
“I loved that it was interdisciplinary so that I could explore a number of different paths. Coming here, I found my interest in social justice and disability studies in particular.”
After she graduates, Remi hopes to continue her advocacy work by pursuing a career in disability law.